The Mommy Writer: Year Two

This post is part of an ongoing series I’m doing about trying to work from home with a child.  As always, I don’t think this information will work for you unless you are me, trying to parent my particular child at this particular time, but I could have used this information to give me hope of future productivity before I had kids, so I’m imparting it anyway.  Enjoy!

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these.  In the second year of my daughter’s life, things changed WAY slower than they did in the first year.  I’ve been able to get into some rhythms and maintain them, instead of needing to re-evaluate every two weeks.  I find this hopeful: the insanity of the first year is incredibly short lived.  Big sighs of relief all around.

In the last year, it’s been a lot harder for me to write with my daughter around than it was in the first year.  When she was under a year old, she laid still.  She rattled toys.  It was after she turned one and learned that Mommy’s laptop WAS a fun toy that things got a little crazier.

So, as I wrote in my last post, I wrote during nap time.  The key to this was prioritizing.  There’s this feeling that would come over me every time my daughter quieted in her crib.  My shoulders would relax.  I’d look around at all the things I wanted to do with my quiet.  I could do the dishes without her pulling everything out of the dishwasher!  I could run an errand without putting her in and out of the car!  (It should be remembered here that my husband works from home.)  I could zone out on the internet!  I could take a nap myself!

And then, instead of doing any of those things, I would write.  Because as much as I wanted to relax, or clean, or whatever, I wanted to still be a writer more.  The key was remembering that the seemingly-small decision I made in that moment, every day, was the difference between writing novels, and not.

So I wrote during naptime.  And I got a lot done.  In October I decided I was going to do 2k a day, and that was going brilliantly.

And then two weeks into that, my daughter stopped napping.

Looking back it was obvious that’s what was happening.  She’d been less and less tired, taking naps later and later in the day, crying more and more before she went to sleep.  She’d even started crying at night on the days that she napped, because she wasn’t tired enough to go to bed.  Her sleep needs were changing.

I resisted for longer than I should have.  But I knew once she gave up the nap longterm, there would be no going back.  It took a couple of days of easy bedtimes and twelve-hour overnight sleeps that I finally accepted the obvious.  She didn’t need a nap anymore.

My work time was gone.

I did a couple of things, after that, one of which is somewhat more noble than the other.  I still wanted to hit my 2k a day, and I didn’t want to have to work in the evening hours when I usually hang out with my husband.  So I divided my 2k up into 200 word stints, and did one every hour.  I could write 200k in five minutes, if I was focused enough, and then spend the rest of the hour playing with my daughter, or involving her in housework.  It wasn’t that hard getting her to leave me alone for five minutes, even on her whiniest days, if I was paying attention for the rest of the time.

That still works well, but I can’t keep it up every day.  The focus it requires is too much to maintain five days a week.  Hours slip by, and I don’t get as much done as I’d like.

So instead my daughter watches one movie every day, and I write.

Yes, I am THAT mom, the one who uses the television as a babysitter.  One movie a day is over the amount of TV recommended for kids by the AAP.  I’m aware.  I do it anyway.

Why?  Because my daughter is so much happier if she gets a resting time during the day, even though she doesn’t need to sleep.  And a movie is the sort of resting time that she can handle without screaming because I dumped her in her crib alone.  And I am so much happier if I get a dedicated writing time.  A movie is actually longer than some of her old nap times, and the end time is predictable.  I get work done, she enjoys our Miyazaki collection, one movie a day.   Her verbal development is progressing just fine.  Everybody wins.

In addition, I sneak small stints during the day when she’s happily playing by herself.  But having a dedicated time every day helps me to maintain momentum and discipline, and make sure I’m not ignoring her all day when I ought to be playing.

I have a feeling this work habit is going to continue working for quite a while.  But I’ll let you know when it quits.